Neil is a 4th generation homesteader. His grandfather, a shoemaker from England immigrated to the U.S to start farming. Neil practiced conventional farming techniques. “No one ever told me to look after the land— just to focus on the livestock,” says Neil. By the late 1990’s, Neil and his wife Barb were struggling. “We even had to sell off some of our land.” Neil had tried putting in electric fences with disappointing results, so he was skeptical when his wife finally dragged him to a Holistic Management seminar. “I sat in the front row and argued with Leonard Pigott, the Holistic Management Certified Educator the whole time. I was going to prove him wrong,” says Neil.
“We would have gone out of business without the training we received.”
After the training, Neil went home and marked off two-10 acre paddocks. In one paddock he managed as he always had, and in the other, he started practicing Holistic Management. Neil took photographs of the progress on both. This would be his evidence that Holistic Management didn’t work. Only that’s not what happened. It didn’t take long before the paddock under Holistic Management had a dramatic increase in plant density. Neil kept taking photos and the holistically managed land continued to show marked improvement. Neil was hooked. Over the next few years he continued his training in Holistic Management with Holistic Management Certified Educators Don Campbell, and the late Terry Gompert, among others.
Practicing Holistic Management has changed Neil’s outlook on life. “I look at things differently. I used to see the world as a glass half empty, and now I see it as half full. When I see weeds, I don’t see a problem, I see a symptom.” He also benefits socially, “My wife and I can now relax more in the winter and have more free time.”
Prior to practicing Holistic Grazing, Neil ran 200-300 head of cattle on his 1,170 acres. Now he runs 800-1,000. That’s twice as much per acre as his neighbors that don’t practice Holistic Management. He enjoys the increased output, while reducing his costs. “I’ve cut costs a lot. It used to take 2-3 people to move my herd. Now I can handle my herd myself. Once you get 500 head together, the herding instinct takes over”.
“We would not be on the farm now, if we didn’t practice Holistic Management. We make better decisions.”
Neil also benefits from an active Holistic Management community in his area. “I have met people from all over the world and the quality of the people keeps me going,” says Neil. When an agricultural agent from the government recently came to talk to the Holistic Management community in Neil’s area, the agent was taken aback by how the Holistic Management practitioners focused less on complaining and more on problem solving.
“When I first started Holistic Management, people thought I was nuts. Now I get calls from all over North America, people stop me on the streets to ask me questions and drive over 60 miles to look at my land. Even the guy that sold me tires wants to know how I got rid of my weeds.”
“I should be retired now, but I’m having too much fun. I want to keep doing what I’m doing.”
When asked about the next generation of farmers, Neil says,” the best thing you can do is to go to Holistic Management seminars and learn. It works wherever you are and can be adapted to your situation.” Neil takes on interns at his farm and he finds that many of them are urban folks that, like his grandfather before him, want to leave the city life and start farming. “Holistic Management saved the farm.”